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Sacramento Kings 2016-17 Season Preview

Basketball Insiders previews the Sacramento Kings’ 2016-17 season.

Basketball Insiders

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The Sacramento Kings have under-performed for years, winning just 33 games last season despite higher expectations internally.  Dating back to last offseason, the Kings were in turmoil with former coach George Karl and All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins at odds.

The organization tried to push through, hoping fences would be mended along the way, but the team stumbled on the floor and eventually Karl was the casualty.  The team has since hired head coach Dave Joerger, who was with the Memphis Grizzlies until this summer.

Joerger is tasked with getting Cousins to engage fully as the Kings’ best player, building a winner with a franchise that hasn’t made the postseason since 2006.  The team has a talented roster – at least offensively – but it remains to be seen if Joerger can get his squad to produce on both sides of the court.

Basketball Insiders previews the Sacramento Kings’ 2016-17 season.

FIVE GUYS THINK

We have spent the better part of the past few years laughing at the instability of the Kings, so many of the moves they made this past summer have gone unnoticed. I mean, their rotation is likely to consist of a few tough veterans in Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes and Kosta Koufos, some youngsters in Malachi Richardson, Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere and some players whom we already know can play in DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and the newly acquired Ty Lawson. The Kings aren’t going to supplant either the Golden State Warriors or Los Angeles Clippers in the division, but, at least on paper, they appear to be a better team this season.

Traditionally, players who bring gold medals home enjoy productive seasons. We’ll see in short order whether Cousins bucks the trend. Either way, I don’t think the Kings are making the playoffs this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they improved upon last season’s 33 wins.

3rd Place – Pacific Division

– Moke Hamilton

Generally speaking, the Kings are no less confusing now than they were a year ago, which means we’re probably in for one more year of the disgruntled version of DeMarcus Cousins. It’s a shame, too, because the happy version of Cousins was such a joy to watch this past summer as a member of Team USA. He’ll be trading in the likes of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson, two free agent signings that capped off a pretty baffling offseason for the Kings. Getting Skal Labissiere as late as they did in the draft was a steal, except he’ll never see the floor on a team collecting centers like Pokemon. They’ve got a patchwork roster with plenty of talent, but nobody has any idea how it’s all going to come together. New head coach Dave Joerger should help put the pieces together, but even a good chef can only do so much with odd ingredients.

4th Place – Pacific Division

– Joel Brigham

It seems like forever since the Kings were annually competing for a trip to the NBA Finals in the early 2000s. But over the past decade, the team has had a rather tumultuous ride. Coaching changes, failed rebuilding projects, relocation threats and constant front-office shuffling led to the Kings seemingly hitting rock bottom on more than a few occasions. The 2016-17 team figures to have its own set of drama to conquer with point guard Darren Collison’s offseason incident looming and the future of All-Star DeMarcus Cousins with the organization a daily discussion. Still, there is enough talent here to make some improvement, but don’t expect a huge leap in the standings.

3rd Place – Pacific Division

– Lang Greene

In some ways, I’m still processing the Kings’ offseason. I didn’t love any of their moves and I didn’t necessarily hate any of them either. A big part of this is the unstable front office situation, which has led to multiple coach hires and fires over the last few seasons and the lack of direction. Is this team trying to win now, or is it more concerned about acquiring young talent for the future? The Kings are bringing in several young players this season, including Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson and Isaiah Cousins. But they also brought in veteran players like Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple, Ty Lawson and Anthony Tolliver. Perhaps trying to become as competitive as possible now is geared toward keeping DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento long-term, but this group of players isn’t likely to make much noise in the Western Conference. Being split between competing now to appease a star player and bringing in young talent to prepare for his possible departure is probably not a recipe for major success, so I’m just not a huge fan of Sacramento’s offseason. Having said all of that, I am a fan of the Dave Joerger hire and am cautiously optimistic that he can establish an identity for this team. If things go well, this team could potentially compete for the third seed in the Pacific Division (but that doesn’t seem likely).

4th Place – Pacific Division

– Jesse Blancarte

Garrett Temple talked to Basketball Insiders in July about Sacramento’s offseason moves and explained that the Kings entered the summer badly wanting to change the culture around the organization. That’s why they signed veterans like Temple, Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, Anthony Tolliver and Ty Lawson and hired head coach Dave Joerger (who had a successful stint with the Memphis Grizzlies). I don’t think Sacramento will make the playoffs this year, but I do expect the team to beat last year’s 33 wins. Joerger and the incoming veterans should do well alongside the team’s returning players to help set the foundation for the future. There are still question marks surrounding the team though, especially when it comes to Rudy Gay’s future with the Kings and whether DeMarcus Cousins is happy with the franchise’s direction.

3rd Place – Pacific Division

– Alex Kennedy

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins is arguably the best scoring center in the NBA.  Last season, he led the Kings with 26.9 points per game.  He is powerful in the post and near the basket, but he also has range that extends all the way out to the three-point line – taking 210 attempts last year and converting 33.3 percent.  Cousins isn’t necessarily the most efficient scorer (shooting 45.1 percent from the field), but he’s a high-volume powerhouse who is very tough for opposing big men to guard.

Top Defensive Player: Willie Cauley-Stein

Now a sophomore, Cauley-Stein has tremendous potential as an NBA defender.  A true seven-footer, Cauley-Stein is mobile and athletic and may get the opportunity to start alongside Cousins.  Whether Cauley-Stein does so at center or power forward isn’t necessarily significant.  He’d likely draw the assignment on the opponent’s strongest offensive player night after night.  Cauley-Stein is agile and long enough to bother smaller, quicker players on the perimeter.  The Kings have not been a strong defensive club in recent years, but Cauley-Stein could be an important part of a culture change.

Top Playmaker: Darren Collison

Last season, Collison came off the bench behind one of the NBA’s top assist men in Rajon Rondo.  With Rondo off to the Chicago Bulls, Collison projects to be a high-minute starter this season for the Kings.  Two years ago, Collison started 45 games in Sacramento, averaging 5.6 assists per game.  While he’s not as dynamic a playmaker as Rondo, Collison will have the ball in his hands a lot this season and will look to set up his teammates.  The Kings have invited Ty Lawson to camp.  Should he make the team, Lawson is more of a true point guard than Collison.  Just two seasons ago (2014-15), Lawson averaged 9.6 assists a game for the Denver Nuggets.  Outside of Lawson, it’s unclear if any other players on the roster can play the point behind Collison.

Top Clutch Player: Rudy Gay, perhaps?

The Kings went into last season with higher expectations, but really struggled to close out games.  As a team, Sacramento wasn’t especially clutch.  Defensively, they gave up 109.1 points a game.  They played at a fast pace (scoring 106.6 points nightly), but down the stretch, they rarely seemed to get important stops.  Whatever clutch offense they got seemed overshadowed by their struggles on the other end.  Rudy Gay was often the primary option in the final minutes of games and while he had some success, the team rarely did.  The Kings really need Cousins to emerge as that guy this season, and they need to get the corresponding stops to get the wins.

The Unheralded Player: Omri Casspi

A number of players could fit this bill, from newcomers Arron Afflalo and Anthony Tolliver to under-utilized players like Kosta Koufos and Ben McLemore.  However, Casspi has emerged as an ideal small-ball stretch four, a mobile 6’9 forward who shoots the three.  Last year, Casspi hit 40.9 percent of his shots from behind the arc.  His effective field goal percentage was 57.1.

Top New Addition: Arron Afflalo

Afflalo is a solid two-way guard, who can also play some small forward.  The Kings need to play a more mature level of basketball to get wins, and Afflalo fits that well as an experienced veteran. He should be a great locker room presence for the Kings, just as he was during his successful stint with the Orlando Magic.  Last season, Afflalo shot 38.2 percent from behind the arc with the New York Knicks.  He’s also a capable scorer from the post.

– Eric Pincus

WHO WE LIKE

1. DeMarcus Cousins

From a pure talent standpoint, Cousins is among the most talented players in the league – big or small.  He played an important part in Team USA earning a gold medal in Rio this summer.  If he can improve as a leader and contain his emotions on the court, Cousins may climb into the “Most Valuable Player” discussion. However, to date, he hasn’t been able to take the Kings to the playoffs.  Cousins isn’t far from a “Who We Don’t Like” list, to be honest.  His career arc is still very much up in the air.

2. Dave Joerger

Coach Joerger was successful in Memphis when the Grizzlies were healthy.  The team was among the best in the league defensively, advancing to the second round in 2015 before falling to the Golden State Warriors in six games.  Sacramento is desperate for leadership, and Joerger has the opportunity to help re-brand the Kings.  His first and primary job will be reaching Cousins.

3. Willie Cauley-Stein

Cauley-Stein can’t make Sacramento a defensive-minded team by himself, but he represents the path the Kings need to walk if they want to truly become a force in the Western Conference. Dave Joerger will try to maximize Cauley-Stein’s potential and get the team’s other significant contributors to step up on the defensive end alongside the second-year big man.

4. Omri Casspi

Casspi is scrappy, plays hard and can hit the three.  As is the case with Cauley-Stein, the team is not going to change its culture because of a couple of role players.  It has to start from the top – and that’s Cousins.

– Eric Pincus

SALARY CAP 101

The Kings dropped under the NBA’s $94.1 million salary cap to sign Arron Afflalo, Anthony Tolliver, Garrett Temple and Matt Barnes.  The team is over the cap, but still has it’s $2.9 million Room Exception.  The team has 14 guaranteed players, with one spot open for Ty Lawson, Lamar Patterson and Isaiah Cousins to fight over.  Lawson’s $1.3 million is a non-guaranteed summer contract, meaning he doesn’t even have salary protection if injured.

Next summer, Sacramento could have significant spending power under a projected $102 million salary cap.  The second years on Afflalo and Tolliver’s contracts (a combined $20.5 million) are guaranteed for just $1.5 million and $2 million, respectively.   Rudy Gay ($12.3 million) and Barnes ($6.4 million) also have player options.  Without all four, the Kings could reach $55 million under the cap – among the most in the league.  That number assumes Sacramento picks up Willie Cauley-Stein’s rookie-scale option before November.  The team also has until the end of October to give Ben McLemore an extension, otherwise he’ll be a restricted free agent if the Kings extend a qualifying offer in July.

– Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

Cousins is a match-up nightmare for most teams.  Gay is a high-volume scoring forward.  Veterans like Barnes, Collison, Tolliver, Koufos, Casspi and Afflalo should help the Kings play a more mature brand of basketball.  Lawson is a wildcard; if he makes the squad, he could end up being the starting point guard or a solid reserve behind Collison.  Cauley-Stein isn’t much of an offensive threat, but he’s an important defensive component on a team that has struggled on that front.  The new start under Joerger, with the team moving to the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, should help the team put their unimpressive past behind them.  The Kings have an opportunity to make noise in the Western Conference, but they’re going to need to finally deliver on the court after years of underwhelming play.

– Eric Pincus

WEAKNESSES

Sacramento has struggled for leadership.  In previous season, opponents just needed to stay close in games because they knew the Kings would eventually beat themselves.  The biggest issue has been on the defensive side of the ball, but Sacramento can be disjointed offensively as well.  Cousins’ talent is unquestionable, but he still has to prove he can be the best player on a good NBA team.  The team’s roster is not particularly well balanced, loaded with forwards and centers but weak at guard.  McLemore has yet to show he’s a consistent impact player.  Collison is a good, but not necessarily a great point guard.  The team needs Afflalo and possibly Lawson to make an impact in the backcourt.

– Eric Pincus

THE BURNING QUESTION

How long will the Kings’ marriage with Cousins last?

Cousins is under contract through the 2017-18 season.  As things are, given his bumpy history with the club, the odds are reasonably high that the All-Star will leave as a free agent in July of 2018.  If Joerger can help turn the team into a winner, the narrative could change significantly.  If not, the Kings need to at least explore moving Cousins lest they lose him for nothing.  Typically, the closer a star player gets to the end of his contract, the harder he can be to move for value.  Teams are often reluctant to give up a lot for a player who can walk away from them after one rental season.  This upcoming February may be the best time to move Cousins, if the Kings prove to be mediocre once again.  The team has not looked to move Cousins this offseason, preferring to see what happens with Joerger and the team’s new players.  The franchise clearly hopes for enough on-court success to engage Cousins for the long-term, but that’s easier said than done.

– Eric Pincus

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NBA Daily: Surging HEAT Must Overcome Adversity

The Miami HEAT have been hit with a number of injuries at shooting guard. Can they stay hot?

Buddy Grizzard

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The Miami HEAT have surged to fourth in the Eastern Conference on the back of a 14-5 stretch since Dec. 9, including a seven-game win streak that ended with Monday’s 119-111 loss to the Bulls in Chicago. In the loss, shooting guard Tyler Johnson got his legs tangled with Robin Lopez and appeared to suffer a serious injury.

“I was scared,” said HEAT small forward Josh Richardson, who joined his teammates in racing down the court to check on Johnson. “You never want to see a guy, whether it’s on your team or the other team, down like that. I talked to him when he was in here [the locker room] and he said he didn’t know what was up.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra told pool reporters after the game that X-rays were negative. It was initially feared to be a knee injury, but Spoelstra said the knee is okay and the ankle is the area of concern. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel tweeted that an MRI was not deemed necessary and Johnson will be listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, the HEAT is facing a serious shortage at shooting guard, having lost Dion Waiters to season-ending knee surgery, Rodney McGruder to a left tibia stress fracture that will likely keep him out until February, and now Johnson. Miami has applied for a $5.5 million disabled player exception after losing Waiters, according to the Sun-Sentinel. HEAT power forward James Johnson said the team will be looking for other players to step up.

“I think it’s the next guy’s gonna step up like we always do,” said Johnson. “As we have guys going down we also have guys getting back and getting back in their groove [like] Justise Winslow. Hopefully, it’s going to give another guy a chance to emerge on this team or in this league.”

Johnson added that the loss to Chicago came against a hot team and the HEAT didn’t have the right mental approach or defensive communication to slow them down.

“Our communication was lacking tonight,” said Johnson. “I think our brains rested tonight and that’s not like us. Tilt your hat to Chicago. They’re shooting the hell out the ball. They didn’t let us come back.”

Richardson echoed the theme of communication and the inability to counter a hot-shooting team.

“We weren’t communicating very well and we were not giving them enough static on the three-point line,” said Richardson. “They’ve been the number one three-point shooting team in the league for like 20 games now. They ran some good actions that we were not reacting right to.”

Spoelstra referred to a turnover-riddled close to the first half as “disgusting” basketball and agreed that the defense let his team down.

“I don’t know what our record is in HEAT franchise history when we give up 120-plus,” said Spoelstra. “I would guess that it’s probably not pretty good.”

The good news for Miami is that it can try a combination of Richardson and Winslow at the wings, while Wayne Ellington has been shooting the leather off the ball from three this season (40.5 percent on over seven attempts per game). The HEAT is the latest team to attempt to defy history by making a serious run without a superstar player. To make that a reality and remain in the upper half of the East’s playoff bracket, Miami will have to personify the “next man up” credo.

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NBA Daily: Is It Time To Cash Out On Kemba Walker?

Should the Hornets get serious about trading Kemba Walker or risk losing him in 2019 for next to nothing?

Steve Kyler

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Is It Time To Sell?

Every professional sports team at some point has to decide when its time to cash out, especially if they have a star player heading towards free agency. The Charlotte Hornets are a team teetering on this decision with star guard Kemba Walker.

Now, let’s be honest for a moment. The Hornets are getting nothing of meaningful value in a trade for Walker if they decided to put him on the trade market—that’s something that will drive part of the decision. Check out these UK sports books with free bets!

The other part of the decision is evaluating the marketplace. This is where Charlotte may have an advantage that’s easy to overlook, which is the ability to massively overpay.

Looking ahead to the cap situations for the NBA in the summer of 2019, there doesn’t appear to be a lot worth getting excited over. While it’s possible someone unexpected goes into cap clearing mode to get space, the teams that project to have space in 2019 also project to have space in 2018, meaning some of that 2019 money could get spent in July and change the landscape even more.

But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume most of the 2019 cap space teams swing and miss on anything meaningful this summer and have flexibility the following summer. Not only will Walker be a name to watch, but guys like Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Dallas’ Harrison Barnes, Detroit’s Tobias Harris, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland’s Kevin Love can all hit unrestricted free agency.

That’s a pretty respectable free agent class.

While most of those names will likely stay where they are, especially if their teams shower them with full max contracts as most would expect, there are a few names that might make the market interesting.

The wrinkle in all of it is the teams projected to have space. Based on what’s guaranteed today, the top of the 2019 cap space board starts with the LA Clippers.

The Clippers currently have just Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari under contract going into 2019. They will have qualifying offers on Milos Teodosic and Sam Dekker, but that’s about it. If the Clippers play their cards right, they could be looking at what could be close to $48 million in usable cap space, making them the biggest threat to poach a player because of the LA marketplace. It should be noted, though, that DeAndre Jordan’s situation will have an impact here.

The Chicago Bulls come in second on the 2019 cap space list with just $35.77 million in cap commitments. The problem for the Bulls is they are going to have to start paying their young guys, most notably Zach LaVine. That’s won’t stop the Bulls from getting to cap space, it’s simply a variable the Bulls have to address this summer that could get expensive.

The Philadelphia 76ers could come in third on the 2019 cap space list, although it seems the 76ers may go all in this summer on re-signing guard J.J. Redick and a swing at a big fish or two. If the 76ers miss, they still have an extension for Ben Simmons to consider, but that shouldn’t impact the ability to get to meaningful space.

For the Hornets, those three situations have to be a little scary, as all of themff something Charlotte can’t offer – big markets and rosters (save maybe the Clippers) with potentially higher upside.

The next group of cap space markets might get to real salary cap room, but its more likely they spend this summer like say the Houston Rockets or are equal to less desirable situations like Sacramento (similar), Dallas (has Dennis Smith Jr), Atlanta (similar) or Phoenix (likely drafts a point guard).

That brings us back to the Hornets decision making process.

If the Hornets put Walker on the market, historically, teams get pennies on the dollar for high-level players headed to free agency. If traded, its more likely than not that Walker hits free agency and goes shopping. That’s the scary part of trading for an expiring contract unless you get the player early enough for him to grow attached to the situation, most players explore options. That tends to drive down the potential return.

The Hornets can also start extension discussions with Walker and his camp this summer and it seems more likely than not the Hornets will pay Walker the full max allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, which could be a deal north of $150 million and he could ink that in July.

It’s possible that someone offers the Hornets the moon for Walker. That has happened in the past. The Celtics gave the Cavaliers a pretty solid return for Irving, a player the Cavaliers had to trade. So it’s not out of the question real offers come in, especially with the NBA trade deadline approaching, but what’s far more likely is the Hornets wait out this season and try to extend Walker this summer.

League sources at the G-League Showcase last week, doubted that any traction could be had on Walker while admitting he’s a name to watch, despite however unlikely a trade seemed today.

The challenge for the Hornets isn’t as simple as cashing out of Walker, not just because the return will be low, but also because where would the franchise go from here?

It’s easy to say re-build through the draft, but glance around the NBA today – how many of those rebuild through the draft situations are yielding competitive teams? How many of them have been rebuilding for five years or more?

Rebuilding through the draft is a painfully slow and frustrating process that usually costs you a coach or two and typically a new front office. Rebuilding through the draft is time consuming and usually very expensive.

It’s easier to rebuild around a star already in place and the fact that Walker himself laughs off the notion of him being anywhere but Charlotte is at least a good sign and the Hornets have some time before they have to really make a decision.

At some point, Charlotte has to decide when to cash out. For the Hornets, the time to make that decision on Walker might be the February 8 trade deadline. It might also be July 1, when they’ll know whether Walker would sign a max contract extension.

If he won’t commit then, the Hornets have their answer and can use the summer to try an extract a package similar to what the Cavaliers got for Irving.

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Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal

Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.

Spencer Davies

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.

Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.

So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.

You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.

With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.

He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.

But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.

Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.

Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.

These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.

Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.

The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.

Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.

The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.

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